For some time I’ve been deliberating over designing a Name of the Rose-inspired murder mystery adventure for D&D. The imagery of weary travellers arriving at a remote monastery in the dead of winter has a certain romantic appeal, while the sinister atmosphere of a body count increasing in an isolated community feels like something that I would like to bring to life on the table.
My plans sped up considerably when Candlekeep Mysteries dropped for 5th edition and I knew, without doubt, that I had my location. Especially given that the anthology of adventures published in this official volume barely sets foot inside the Great Library, leaving me – and no doubt others – with a bookish itch to scratch. Seekers are famously not allowed beyond the Emerald Door under usual circumstances – but the Keeper of Tomes being murdered is far from usual.
The location was set but the hard work was just beginning. I needed motives to kill, clues that the guilty left behind, and a web of secrets to uncover. I started re-reading Arthur Conan Doyle novels, rewatching Agatha Christie adaptations, and I went back to films like Knives Out to fathom what made them great murder mysteries.
Once I had revised the genre, I set about constructing a story that used every last piece of lore in Candlekeep Mysteries (plus several more pieces from the excellent Elminster’s Candlekeep Compendium), until I was satisfied I had an adventure that would not only intrigue and bewitch players, but also bring all the excellent published material into play.
But then as I looked at the gorgeous map by Mike Schley (inspired, I believe, by that of Marco Bernardini), I still felt that too much of the playground of Candlekeep was left unexplored!
How could I bring this beautifully illustrated, but largely unchartered, location into play? By chance I was reading the Da Vinci Code in Spanish (a useful way to pick up new vocabulary when learning a foreign language!), and I loved the idea, depicted in the book’s beginning, of a guardian of world-changing knowledge who leaves a mystery trail behind him after death.
In Candlekeep Murders, therefore, what starts as a murder mystery ends as a treasure hunt that takes players to almost every corner of the Great Library (which I took upon expanding in a special “Inside the Great Library” appendix!) in a bid to reach the Vault of Secrets before the devious Manshoon (the adventure’s hidden antagonist).
The result is very much an adventure of two halves: one based on a tightly woven story (where I have done most of the hard work for DMs!), the other presenting a much more flexible scenario for DMs to adapt or put their own stamp on, using the tools provided.
Indeed, one could easily bisect the adventure and just run one half of it (the murder mystery or the treasure hunt), if for some reason only one half appeals, or if perhaps you’re playing under time constraints.
Where Can I Buy It?
So there you go…. Candlekeep Murders: The Deadwinter Prophecy is now available to buy on the DMs Guild. If you like murder mysteries do please pick up a copy!
Getting these projects over the line is always an all consuming affair, especially because Candlekeep Murders has a little bit of a Christmas theme (or more precisely Deadwinter theme!) and so I wanted to get it published for the holidays. Which explains the lack of posts on Hipsters & Dragons recently. That will change in 2022…. after publishing the 300 page monster that is Dragonbowl (which is getting some rave reviews!) and now the 100 page intrigue that is Candlekeep Murders I definitely need a break, and yearn for a return to short format writing.
That’s it from me. Happy Deadwinter’s Day to you all! I hope your presents haven’t been tampered with…
Hi, I don’t know if you’ll reply to this, but you mentioned it could be adapted, but the location seems to be kinda important, so I wouldn’t be able to change that, right? I’m looking to do a murder mystery on a cruise ship.
Hi Tired DM
So, I think what I was trying to say (if I remember) is that you can play the murder mystery OR the treasure hunt section (obviously the idea is to play both, but should only one part appeal….), but neither will adapt easily to other settings I’m afraid. I incorporated a lot of Candlekeep lore in both (one of my design goals was to use all the cool lore in the Candlekeep Mysteries).
Obviously, given your cruise ship setting, you might want to watch Death on the Nile!
Good luck! I want to do some more murder mystery content, so let me know how it goes and what you learn!